Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Cook examines developments in the Middle East and their resonance in Washington.

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Showing posts for "Syria"

Weekend Reading: The Taxi Drivers of Damascus, Women’s Prisons in Egypt, and Morocco’s Meteorite Trade

by Steven A. Cook
A vendor sells books at Mutanabi Street in Baghdad (Mohammed Ameen/Reuters).

Mohamed Ozon explores life in Damascus today through the lens of the city’s taxi drivers.

Ravy Shaker, in a photo essay, takes a look at life inside women’s prisons in Egypt. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Islam and Liberalism, Lebanon’s Christians, and Turkey’s Dwindling Syria Options

by Steven A. Cook
Turkish soldiers participate in an exercise on the border line between Turkey and Syria near the southeastern city of Kilis, Turkey (Murad Sezer/Reuters).

Nervana Mahmoud critiques Brookings scholar Shadi Hamid’s assertion that illiberal Islam is a viable future for Muslim societies.

Tarek Osman explores the relationship between Lebanese Christians and foreign protectors, especially in light of French presidential contender Marine Le Pen’s visit last month. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Repression, Tripoli’s Tribulations, and the Golan’s Circassians

by Steven A. Cook
General view for Cairo international book fair in Cairo, Egypt (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters).

Read the El Nadim Center’s latest report on oppression in Egypt, published two weeks before authorities shut down the organization’s headquarters on February 9. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Russia in the Levant, the Uprising in Alexandria, and Tunisians Look Back

by Steven A. Cook
People wave national flags during celebrations marking the sixth anniversary of Tunisia's 2011 revolution in Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters).

Ibrahim Hamidi finds parallels between Russian activity in Syria today and French military expansion in the Levant in the 1920s.

Youssef El Chazli recreates the events of the first day of Egypt’s 2011 uprising as they unfolded in Alexandria. Read more »

Weekend Reading: A Changing Discourse on Syria, Salman’s Saudi Troubles, and Turkey’s Soft Power

by Steven A. Cook
Saudi King Salman bin Abbulaziz Al-Saud attends the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 37th Summit in Manama, Bahrain (Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters).

Nervana Mahmoud considers how the discourse on the Syrian conflict could change in 2017.

Alain Gresh finds that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman can claim few successes in his time as ruler so far. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Church Bombing, Jihadi Street Art, and Saudis Go to the Track

by Steven A. Cook
A Saudi man trains his son to ride a horse in a desert near Tabuk, Saudi Arabia (Mohamed Al Hwaity/Reuters).

Maged Atiya ponders what the Egyptian state can do in the aftermath of the bombing at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in downtown Cairo.

Loubna Salem takes a look at examples of jihadi street art. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Tunisian Economics, Assad and the Jihadis, and Palestinians in Egypt

by Steven A. Cook
Tunisian lawyers demonstrate against the government's proposed new taxes, near the courthouse in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters).

Francis Ghiles finds that persistent economic problems threaten the stability and success of Tunisia’s democratic transition.

Elias Muhanna speculates on the relationship between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and jihadi groups. Read more »

The Perplexing Problems of Solving Syria

by Steven A. Cook
Rebel fighters shoot their weapon towards Dabiq town in northern Aleppo countryside, Syria (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters).

This article was originally published here on War on the Rocks on Monday, October 17, 2016.

What is there to say about Syria? That it is a tragedy? That only the horrors of the Holocaust, Pol Pot’s reign of terror, and Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution diminish its human toll? That the so-called international community strenuously condemns the murder of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of half of Syria’s population? These are, as so many have pointed out, merely words to salve the collective conscience of officials who have chosen to do the absolute minimum while a major Middle Eastern country burns. This tragedy was coming. It was obvious once Syrian President Bashar al-Assad militarized the uprising that began in the southern town of Deraa in March 2011. Policymakers in Washington and other capitals assured themselves — against all evidence — that it was only a matter of time before Assad fell. But anyone who knew anything about Syria understood that the Syrian leader would not succumb the way Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali or Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak did. No, Assad’s ignominy is different, borne of the unfathomable amount of blood he has spilled. There was a time when this violence could have been minimized and American interests served through an intervention, but policymakers acquiesced to the arguments of those who said it was only a matter of time or, when Assad did not fall quickly, that it was too hard. Until it actually was. Now, the desperate images emerging from Aleppo have made it impossible to look away. It remains a matter of debate precisely what the Syrian air force and its Russian partners seek in Aleppo, thought it seems that they are seeking to wrest control of the eastern half of the city by flattening it from the air. Read more »